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How did baby die?


How did baby die?

September 4, 2003

Belfast Telegraph

Romanian orphan David Briggs died three months after being fostered by Geoffrey and Gwen Briggs (right)

An Ulster health trust was lambasted today by a damning new report commissioned after the death of a Romanian orphan who had been fostered by a former missionary.

The child, who suffered multiple fractures, was buried without the injuries ever being explained. His twin brother was later admitted to hospital with a fractured skull.

The independent review - carried out by three senior Social Service chiefs from England - criticised Craigavon and Banbridge Community Health and Social Services Trust for failing to "properly monitor the well-being" of David Briggs and his twin Samuel once they arrived in Northern Ireland in July 2000.

And it pointed to a lack of "effective communication" between staff as well as differing interpretations of policy and practice.

"We identified a lack of corporate working within the Trust both at management and operational level, and we believe that better practice may have enabled care issues to be identified earlier," the report said.

David and Samuel were privately fostered by Portadown couple, Geoffrey and Gwen Briggs when they were 11 months old. Three months after coming to the province, David died.

Just under two weeks later, Mr and Mrs Briggs brought Samuel to the accident and emergency unit of Craigavon Area Hospital. The child was found to have a fractured skull and other injuries.

Geoffrey Briggs, a former overseas missionary, was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on Samuel and jailed for 12 months.

The coroner then ordered the exhumation of David's body and is currently awaiting reports from police and the Director of Public Prosecutions before holding an inquest into the death.

The post-mortem examination x-rays on David were reviewed with a second post-mortem examination carried out. This confirmed multiple fractures consistent with non-accidental injury.

Today's review - commissioned by former Health minister Bairbre de Brun - which examines family, child health and social care services in the Trust, made no fewer than 39 recommendations.

It pointed to a failure by the health visitor and the social worker - "as much due to a lack of contact" ? to notice "the signs of stress within the family leading to the abuse of the children".

And it identified a "lack of communication" between the GP, health visitor and social worker.

The review team said it had concerns that "because of the lack of a proper disciplined approach the children's failure to thrive was neither identified by the health visitor nor reported to the other professional colleagues when there was concern".

Elsewhere, the report pointed to a lack of appropriate supervision and record keeping as well as delays in undertaking key areas of work which it says cannot be blamed solely on a lack of resources.

The wide-ranging review said once David and Samuel had come to Northern Ireland they had a "right to the services and protection afforded to any child, and which formed part of the services commissioned by the Board with the Trust".

The report hit out further at "inaction" as soon as the full implications of David Briggs' death were known "both in terms of a co-ordinated approach to issues, and failure to secure the files so that a professional audit could take place".

It also highlighted a failure to appreciate, "despite extensive media coverage of many of the issues, the special problems faced by children coming to this country from Romania".

In conclusion the report said: "There was a lack of leadership in the Trust, leading to confusion, on the part of operational staff, of their role, their wider responsibilities and the need for a teamwork approach to supporting children."

The review team said it was endorsing the findings of a "case management review" presented to the Department of Health and Southern Health Board in 2001.

Among the 50-plus recommendations made in that report, was that police should "re-examine the circumstances and possible cause of David's death".

Health Minister, Angela Smith, said today she was ordering the setting up of a team to implement all of the recommendations.

2003 Sep 4